8 Things You Should Know About The Australian Island Completely Inhabited By Malays

They have been living on the Aussie island for the past 200 years!

Cover image via iluminasi/Syok

There's a tiny group of Australian islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean that looks like any other piece of land at first glance...

Image via iluminasi
Image via Wikimedia
Image via SBS Australia

... But what many may not know is that this tropical Australian paradise has been completely inhabited by Malays for the past 200 years!

Here are eight facts you probably never knew about the Cocos (Keeling) Islands:

1. The islands are inhabited by a small society of about 600 Malays

In 1826, it is believed that Cocos Malays emigrated - mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia - as slaves and harem members of English explorer Alexander Hare.

There are 27 islands that make up Cocos or Keeling Islands, but only two of those islands are inhabited – West Island and Home Island.

Image via Cairns Post

2. The islands get its name from the abundance of coconut trees that lined its coast

'Cocos' refers to coconuts trees, while 'Keeling' comes from the name William Keeling – the man who discovered the islands back in 1609.

Cocos Islands remained completely uninhabited until 1827, when a Scottish merchant named John Clunies-Ross brought in Malays to work on his copra (dried coconut flesh) plantation. The Scottish Clunies-Ross family then ruled the islands for over 150 years.

Many of the Malays who reside there today are said to have descended from those plantation workers.

There's even a coconut tree on their national flag.

Image via Stock clip

3. The islands were first owned by the British before being transferred to Australia's rule in 1955

Public services such as health, education, and policing are now administered by Western Australia.

However, there is also a shire council who governs local affairs.

Image via Pinterest
Image via Syok

4. The official languages spoken on the islands are Malay and English

The Cocos Malay dialect derive words from Bahasa Indonesia and Malay due to the irregular contact with outsiders. However, some words have been adapted to local terms to create Basa Pulu Kokos.

Fun fact: As a result of being under Australia's reign, a number of English-speaking Cocos Malays are believed to speak with an Australian accent - based on an 'Australia's Forgotten Islands' documentary.

About 75% of the islanders are Sunni-Muslim and there are three mosques known to exist on the islands.

Image via SBS Australia
Image via SBS Australia

5. Cocos Islands has a growing reputation for kitesurfing

It's so popular that there are even tour packages available which include: accommodation, flights, and kitesurfing equipment and lessons.

Island hopping, snorkelling, fishing, surfing, and diving are some of the other activities you can do there.

Image via iksurf mag

6. Malaysian TV channels like TV3, NTV7, TV9, and 8TV are broadcasted to the islands

Aside from having four Western Australian satellite television channels, several sites claim that the islands also receive Malaysian TV channels.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Media Prima

7. Cocos Malays' cultural heritage is a blend of influences from Asia, Scotland, and Australia

Apart from practising Malay traditions, a hint of colonial culture still remains to this day, such as the Scottish dance performed by the Cocos community - primarily at weddings.

Australia Day, Ramadan, Aidilfitri, and Aidiladha are also celebrated on the islands.

8. To get to Cocos Islands, there are two flights a week from Perth, Australia

One flight goes directly to the islands, while the other requires a four-hour trip to Christmas Island and then a one-hour flight to Cocos.

The islands airport is located on its capital, West Island.

Image via Paul McFarlane/Flickr

You can watch this documentary on Cocos Island:

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